BBQ Rush might be the only restaurant in Tucson where you can order spicy ground beef samosas to go with your barbecue brisket plate.
The brick-and-mortar eatery at the Lazydays KOA RV resort, 5151 S. Country Club Road, has all the usual suspects that you’d find at a traditional barbecue joint: St. Louis-style ribs with meat that falls off the bone; a smoked sausage meal with baked beans and coleslaw; chicken wings dished out with your choice of dipping sauces.
“Delicious barbecue begins with only the finest ingredients,” the restaurant’s website proudly proclaims.
In recent weeks, owner Jason Scott has added a second menu of Indian dishes to BBQ Rush’s list of offerings, one that includes tandoori chicken, beef and vegan samosas and paneer tikka masala.
The new options are the result of a collaboration between Scott and Roop Singh, owner of the Twisted Tandoor brand in Tucson.
“It sounds weird, but it works,” Scott said. “There are a surprising amount of similarities between the two. They are both super-savory types of food.”
Mixing barbecue and Indian cuisine was an idea born from friendship.
Scott and Singh have known each other for years.
Scott met Roop Singh and Roop’s late husband, Mukhi Singh, when BBQ Rush and Twisted Tandoor were both food trucks.
Mukhi Singh, a well-liked and well-respected member of the food truck community, moved to Tucson with his family from California in 2001. They launched the Twisted Tandoor in 2012.
“We all looked up to Mukhi,” Scott said. “He was like my mentor. He would give us all advice. He’d tell us we needed to find two spots a day, one for lunch and for dinner, and shoot for $1,000-$1,500 every night.”
Tragedy struck when Mukhi Singh died from a heart attack in 2015, hours before the Singhs were set to open their own brick-and-mortar restaurant on East Limberlost Drive.
Roop Singh has dabbled in bringing the Twisted Tandoor back in the years since, as a food truck, a catering business and as a short-lived collaboration with JAM Culinary Concepts, the company behind area restaurants Vero Amore and Noble Hops.
She had been using BBQ Rush’s kitchen as a commissary for catering gigs for several months when Scott asked if she’d like to sell her food in-house.
Scott said Mukhi Singh was the inspiration.
“He always wanted to mix barbecue and Indian food,” Scott said. “He used to collaborate with another barbecue food truck, do Indian food at that owner’s restaurant in Pinetop. I was going to start showing him how to smoke certain meats before he died.”
For Roop Singh, the decision was easy.
“There is no stress working with Jason,” she said. “It is always easier having a partner than trying to do everything on your own.”
Scott invested more than $11,000 in a new kitchen line for Roop Singh, where she can, among other culinary pursuits, make the sauce for the tikka masala and beef stuffing for the samosas.
Singh has trained Scott’s kitchen staff to assemble the plates using her prepared ingredients.
“It is cooked the way I would eat it,” she said. “I don’t like to take shortcuts.”
Scott said the collaboration has been beneficial for both parties from the get-go.
“Roop has 5,000 followers on Facebook,” he said. “When she posted she was making her food here, people started coming. Customers are traveling from the north side of Tucson to have Indian food. Then they come back next week and have barbecue.”
Singh said the differences in cuisine also benefit the people who stay at the RV resort.
BBQ Rush is open to the public, but many of the customers are from the park, Scott said. Most swing through the restaurant in the early evening, from 5 to 8 p.m.
“I don’t think they want to eat barbecue twice a day, every day,” Singh said. “It is nice for them to have a variety, so they don’t have to venture out.”
Plus, Scott said, Singh’s vegan options, the chana masala and a peas-and-potatoes samosa dish, serve a previously untapped audience for BBQ Rush.
“As a barbecue restaurant, we don’t generally cater to that crowd,” he said.
Scott said once Singh is completely settled, he’d like to start working on fusing more Indian, barbecue and Mexican dishes, with items like chicken tikka burros and tacos.
The two have discussed possibly opening a second location in midtown Tucson where they can create a full fusion menu.
“Whenever Roop is here, all the kitchen staff does is eat,” Scott said. “She is always trying out new things on us.”